Former Timor PM blames Church over ouster

East Timor's former prime minister Mari Alkatiri has accused Catholic Church leaders of a conspiracy to destroy his Fretilin government over his recent ouster.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Dr Alkatiri has lashed out at the church's leaders in an interview before leaving East Timor for Portugal on Wednesday, saying the main reason they wanted to depose him was because he is not Catholic.

"I don't say it was the whole of the Catholic Church, but it was the hierarchy," he said.

"And they were joined by other groups ... people from the opposition parties and illegal groups within the country."

Dr Alkatiri is a Muslim in a country where 96 per cent of the 1 million people are Catholics and the Church enjoys significant political influence.

Since being forced from office amid violence in June, Dr Alkatiri has refused to say who he believes was behind what he describes as a well-planned conspiracy to topple him.

But he told the online South-East Asian Times in Dili that the plot to bring down his government began in 2001 and included three weeks of street protests last year.

"The Catholic Church organised the people for demonstrations for three weeks and they failed," Dr Alkatiri said. "Since then they were always trying to get support from institutions and individuals within the country ... always with the same purpose, to force the government to step down."

Domingos Soares, the Catholic Church's spokesman in Dili, told the Herald last night the Church would not respond to Dr Alkatiri's allegations.

"All Timorese know that the role of church is to promote peace and prosperity," Fr Domingos said.

"We have no response to make ... Alkatiri is not our boss. He can say what he likes."

However, in a speech in which he also praised his "friend", Alkatiri, new Prime Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, yesterday told Parliament that having a "good and fruitful relationship" with the Church was a priority of his government.

"The Timorese Catholic Church is one of those unique institutions that is the glue that holds the social fabric together," Dr Ramos-Horta said in a speech marking 100 days of his new government.

Renewing a call to the Church to assume a major role in education and development of our people in human development and the struggle against poverty, Dr Ramos-Horta said the Timor government is expecting the opening of a third Timor-Leste diocese as well as the establishment of a nunciature in Dili.

Truth commission report to be launched in Australia

Meanwhile, an Australian coalition for justice in East Timor, set up by a Jesuit centre, has announced the launch of a groundbreaking 2500-page report which documents the nation's human rights abuses under Indonesian occupation.

Dr Mark Byrne, a senior researcher at Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre, says the report of East Timor's Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is to be launched around Australia this month, provides an opportunity for Australians to understand some of the underlying causes of the recent troubles in East Timor.

"The crisis in Dili this year is a reminder that without justice and reconciliation, the past will continue to haunt the people of a new post-conflict nation such as East Timor," he said.

According to Sr Susan Connelly, Assistant Director of Mary MacKillop East Timor, the Australian launches of the Chega! report are also an opportunity to reflect on Australia's role in the past and future of East Timor.

"With the announcement [on Wednesday] of a new security treaty with Indonesia, we are concerned that accountability for past human rights violations in East Timor will once again take a back seat to securing our relationship with Indonesia," she said.

Church forced me out, says Alkatiri (Sydney Morning Herald, 9/11/06)
100-day speech of the Second Constitutional Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste delivered by H.E. the Prime Minister Dr. Josť Ramos-Horta (ReliefWeb, 9/11/06)
East Timor human rights report to be launched in Australia (Uniya, Media Release, 8/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Uniya | National launch of Timor-Leste CAVR report
Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor

East Timor situation calm for All Saints (CathNews, 3/11/06)
Nobel prize Bishop meets Timor rebels and ex-PM (CathNews, 27/10/06)
Men killed outside Dili Church as Timor's PM leaves to see Pope (CathNews, 24/10/06)
Timor bishop in bid to prevent new violence (CathNews, 13/10/06)
Timor highlanders back fugitive rebel with prayers (CathNews, 11/9/06)
'Big people' must reconcile, say displaced Timorese (CathNews 15/8/06)
Priest says coffee growers big losers in Timor unrest (CathNews 21/7/06)
Ramos-Horta wants Vatican embassy for Timor (CathNews 11/7/06)
Timor Church accused of plotting coup (CathNews 29/6/06)
Timor Church to pursue truth and dialogue (CathNews 28/6/06)
Diocese prepares to aid fleeing East Timor refugees (CathNews 11/5/06)
East Timor Catholic leaders appeal for calm after riot (CathNews 5/5/06)
Thousands shelter in Catholic centres after East Timor riots (CathNews 3/5/06)
West Timor bishop tells Govt it's time to act on refugees (CathNews 13/3/03)

10 Nov 2006